illiam Robert Ware (1832-1915) was a graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard's Lawrence Scientific School. He worked with Edward Clarke Cabot's firm before joining the New York office/atelier of Richard Morris Hunt in 1859, where his colleagues included Charles Gambrill, George Post, and his future partner, Henry Van Brunt. Hunt, the first American graduate of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, had opened a small Paris-style atelier for New York architects and it seems likely that Hunt's respect for the French educational system later influenced Ware.
After less than a year at the atelier, Ware returned to Boston and entered into partnership with Edward S. Philbrick, a civil engineer. The exact nature and duration of their partnership is unknown, but at least one project survives from this collaboration--the High Street Church in Brookline. Designed for the Swedenborgian Church in 1860, the building was dedicated in 1862 and existing project drawings are labeled "Philbrick and Ware, Architects." Philbrick's family was pivotal in the building of the church, both organizationally and financially. Several neighboring residential projects, including Philbrick's own house, were later designed by Ware and Henry Van Brunt.
Ware and Van Brunt, also a Harvard graduate, formed their partnership in 1864. Some of the firm's best known work includes Harvard's Memorial Hall, First and Second Church in Boston's Back Bay, and the Episcopal Divinity School campus in Cambridge. Van Brunt is often given credit as the partner in charge of design, while Ware was thought to be concerned largely with practical engineering issues. However, existing evidence suggests that in fact, Ware had a strong influence upon design and aesthetic issues. Ware's previous work, such as High Street Church, demonstrates his design skill. Several sources, including the architect himself, credit Ware with the design of the Ether Monument in Boston's Public Garden, and at least one source attributes the design of First Church to Ware. A further indication of the importance of Ware's design contributions to the partnership is that the firm's most original work was completed in its early years while Ware's influence was strongest.
The ties between Ware & Van Brunt's office and the architecture students at MIT were very strong. The office teaching provided by the firm was an important undertaking, for both Ware and Van Brunt, and was influenced by their experiences in Hunt's New York office. A number of students educated at MIT also worked in the firm, including William Rotch Ware, Frederick W. Stickney, Charles A. Coolidge, and George F. Shepley. The partnership with Van Brunt continued until Ware's departure for New York in 1881 to found Columbia University's architectural school.
This dedication to instruction may have been what brought Ware to the attention of MIT officials. In a letter to mathematics professor John D. Runkle, who later became the second president of MIT, Ware states, "You have once or twice made the suggestion that the Institute of Technology is likely presently to take up the problem of architectural education, and that you hope to avail of the experience Mr. Van Brunt and I have had of late with our pupils in the solution of it."
William Robert Ware's lifelong work as an architectural educator had an unparalleled influence on the development of the profession in America. The models he established, first at MIT and later at Columbia University, provided the foundation for numerous architectural programs throughout the country.